Did you think this post was going to be super profound, like “I didn’t understand what love meant until I had a child with special needs?” Okay, that’s a good post too and maybe true, but I’m being more prosaic here.
I really mean actual words that I did not understand. As in, the neurologist or the pediatrician would say something to me and I had no. idea. what they were talking about.
If you are fortunate, you’ll never need to know what any of this stuff is either. But in the event that you are curious, or you have a friend with a child with special needs, or you work with a child that has special needs, or you end up raising such a child, it might be helpful to be more informed than I was.
With this post, I’m going to do our Monday List, but I’m also kicking off a new, regular feature where I explain stuff about raising a child with special needs that I wish someone had explained to me. I haven’t picked a name for this yet but am open to suggestions. The pithier the better!
The Monday List: “Words” I didn’t understand until I had a child with special needs. I say “words,” because I’ve chosen mostly acronyms for this list.
- PT, OT, DT, and Speech: These are the four primary types of therapy that a child with developmental delays or other challenges might have.
- PT is physical therapy. Physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills, like sitting, crawling, walking, climbing stairs etc. Not to be confused with PE. I’m pretty sure there isn’t any dodge ball involved in PT. And they don’t check you for scoliosis in the locker room.
- OT is occupational therapy. Before James was born, I thought that occupational therapists were job counselors. Seriously. (Oh, the bliss of ignorance.) OT focuses on fine motor skills, like eating with a pincer grasp, drawing with crayons, using a spoon, etc.
- DT is developmental therapy. This is a form of play therapy that used to be offered for free to children under three in North Carolina with developmental delays. We worked with an adorable girl who basically played with James for an hour each week. Was this helpful? I can’t say, because North Carolina took away funding for this program, and it isn’t something that is covered by insurance. The idea, however, is that developmental therapy integrates the other kinds of therapy into one session.
- Speech. Okay, this one is fairly obvious. But what the therapist actually does in these sessions may not be what you think. Ironically, most of what James works on in speech right now really isn’t actual speaking. Because his condition affects the neurological path between the brain and body, it is just as difficult for him to form sounds with his mouth as it is for him to walk. So for James and for many other children that aren’t (yet?) verbal, a lot of time is spent in speech on signing. Sign language is typically easier for children with developmental delays to master than actual speech, and it is a way to teach the children language, which is a huge step in development.
Whew! Are we tired yet? For the past two years or so, James has done speech, PT, and OT each once a week. His schedule is busier than most anyone else’s in the house! This year, he gets all of his therapies at school now that he is 3. (so much more on school later.)